For the typical working man and woman, the hours and the days spent off the clock are a time reserved for mentally and physically unwinding and stepping away from the daily grind of their professions, but when one is fortune enough to make their passion their way of life, that profession — that passion — doesn’t begin or end with the punch of as time clock.
And such is the case for Texas native and transplanted Hoosier Norm Boutot.
By day, Boutot makes his living heading up the expansive fabrication shop at John Force Racing in Brownsburg, Indiana, living out his dream of working in professional motorsports as he leads a team of fabricators in the construction of championship-winning Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car chassis for Force, his daughters Brittany and Courtney, and Robert Hight. But for Boutot, his time away from the shop isn’t spent at the links or on a boat, drink in hand, but rather, knee deep in drag racing as he toils away and rips on his ultra-quick Corvettes.
While working behind the scenes to help propel Force to his sixteenth NHRA Funny Car championship this season, Boutout was also “relaxing” back home, pushing his 2007 Z06 Corvette to new heights on the race track, achieving numbers that have gotten the attention of his peers at the race shop and even the Funny Car legend himself.
I usually try to see how far I can go with the smallest amount of money and work.
How quick, you ask? How about nine-second time slips, with wheels-up launches and sixty-feet times that will make you look at the slip twice.
Boutot’s Corvette tinkering began with his previous car, a black, LS2-powered 2005 Corvette convertible that entered the family garage bone-stock and left his possession as a 10-second, 131 MPH daily driver.
“We managed to run in the low tens, but it came to a point where I wanted to step it up, and I wasn’t sure if I could get that car to go into the nines or not. I figured it would’ve been close, even though I had relatively little done to it. I usually try to see how far I can go with the smallest amount of money and work.”
The car was sold earlier this year, and in came the Z06, that Boutot believed would deliver more performance potential. Like the ’05, it was purchased in stock form, with plans of adding an automatic transmission, heads, and a camshaft, and going 9.70’s. “The quickest I’d heard of anybody going with a stock bottom end at the time was a 9.86. I figured it should run in the 70’s fairly easily, but it hadn’t been done before,” he explains. Boutot drove the car in stock form while he acquired parts, clicking off a 12.06 at 121 MPH during that period on the original tires and rowing the manual transmission.
Track images courtesy Jolie Sullivan
A set of headers (necessitated by the breakage of some Catalytic converter bolts) and an A4 conversion to an RPM Transmissions-built 4L60 transmission and a Yank SS4000 converter pushed the car into the 10’s with 1.42 short time on the bone stock motor and a set of drag radials. From there, a custom-grind camshaft was sourced from Comp Cams, and at the same time, Boutot performed same rather basic head porting around the intake runners. New stainless steel valves and guides were added, along with .926 valve springs, also from Comp, to round out the engine package. A set of “skinnies” were installed up front, along with a Strange Engineering brake package to deduct some rotating weight.
The car was taken to nearby Lucas Oil Raceway, where it clicked off a 9.72 with a 1.28 short time. This with a full interior, stock bottom end, and all. And not a power adder in sight.
As fall turned to early winter and Lucas Oil Raceway’s schedule bookended in October, it left Boutot without a track in the local area to continue making laps with the car, and so a plan was devised to travel north to the Maryland International Raceway, considered one of the quickest and fastest tracks in the nation. And with the atmospheric conditions present at that time of year, Boutot knew it was his chance to go big.
With a set of Strange brakes out back, the passenger seat removed and a lighter racing-esque drivers seat in the car, went 1.22 to short, a killer 5.97 to the 1/8-mile, and a 9.46 at 139.93 MPH. Making that all the more impressive is the fact that not only was the stock muffler put back on the car for this outing, but some ballast was added to combat tire spin on earlier runs. And the sixty foots times, which rival some much quicker, far more powerful cars, was done on a suspension setup that’s bone stock with the exception of the 12.9 lb. front sway bar.
“It ran really consistent and carried the front wheels out about thirty feet before it set them down,” Boutot said.
Boutout accomplished the feat on the same track day at MIR that fellow Corvette enthusiast Eric Lancaster recorded the quickest pass ever by a stock bottom end ZR1, when he went 8.92, as reported here on Dragzine just a few weeks ago.
It’s a very mild combo, and the heads still have a lot of room, I believe, to pick up,” he continued. “I could easily take another hundred pounds out of the car, and I have both a FAST and Nick Williams 102mm throttle body I can put on it. My plan is to put the ported FAST on it, some custom stepped headers that American Racing is going to make for me, and a 15-inch rear wheel to get the 315 radial down to a low 1.20 sixty-foot time consistently. We’ll also have to put a 3.73 gear in it to bring it back to the same effective gear ratio that i’m running right now. With that, I’m shooting for somewhere between a 9.15 and a 9.25, naturally aspirated, with a stock bottom end that runs on Shell 93.”
Hearing of how quick Boutot’s car ran from fellow employees, Force himself, one of the most safety-conscious racers in the sport, offered up the use of the fabrication shop for Boutot to equip the car with the necessary roll bar for it’s speed and elapsed times.
He [Jack Beckman] can’t believe that my car went a 1.22 sixty foot. He says, ‘man, that’s an 8.30 dragster short time.
Former Funny Car champ Jack Beckman is also a follower of Boutot’s exploits, getting regular reports on how the car is performing from Boutot, who previously worked with the popular driver at Don Schumacher Racing.
“He can’t believe that my car went a 1.22 sixty foot. He says, ‘man, that’s an 8.30 dragster short time.”
What’s equally as unbelievable is just how quick today’s production cars truly are and the kind of performance they’re capable of with little work and additional financial investment. No doubt we’ll be hearing more of Boutot and his Corvette in the future, as he insists, “I just know there’s more left on the table.”